Thomas Carlyle the great Victorian historian, close friend of Charles Dickens wrote these wonderful words which have been carved in stone in the foyer to the Mitchell ( State Library) in Sydney. This is where many of us visited the Shakespeare Room this week. But for those of studying Charles Dickens and Victorianism, these words have a special resonance. They remind us (in this forgetful digital age) of how important the printed word in the book is to our soul, to our connection with so much that gives humanity its meaning and purpose: “THE SOUL OF THE WHOLE PAST TIME/ THE ARTICULATE AUDIBLE VOICE OF THE PAST/ WHEN THE BODY/ AND MATERIAL SUBSTANCE/ OF IT HAS ALTOGETHER/ VANISHED LIKE A DREAM“.
So literature (as Shakespeare so often reminds us) contains within it the transformative vision -“the soul of the whole past”- that sustains the enduring life of things. Romeo and Juliet is one such entity that carries the transfiguring power of the love of Juliet and Romeo for each other across the centuries and across the horrific enmities that continue to plague the world. Charles Dickens’s Hard Times equally carries “the articulate audible voice” of Sissy Jupe’s love for all humanity across the deadened landscape of industrialism, materialism and self-interest. She breathes into her readers an experience of a love that is not “Thelf-interetht” (to misquote Mr Thleary!).
Blog Topic 1 for Week 6 (for both Shakespeare and Nineteenth Century).
Take any literary text (19thCentury OR Shakespearean OR both) and explain how and why the words of this text continue to have a transformative, illuminating, nurturing LIFE. Is this why we continue to engage with literature? Is literature an antidote to the destructive forces in the world?
Blog Topic 2: Create your own Blog topic, linking it to any of the texts explored this week.